PITTSBURGH Matthew Grzelcyk has obviously always had the dream of suiting up for the Bruins since he was a two-year-old hockey pup skating on the old Boston Garden ice with his dad.
Grzelcyk grew up in Charlestown in the shadows of the Garden before it was knocked down, and then the new TD Garden after it. Even better his dad, John, has worked in the bull gang crew changing the ice over to hardwood at the Garden for over 35 years.
So Grzelcyk comes from a good, old-fashioned Boston hockey family and has been a diehard Bruins fan for as far back as he can remember. Getting selected by the hometown Bruins in the third round (85th overall) as an undersized 5-foot-9, 171-pound defenseman is about as good as it gets.
I really cant put any of it into words. Its pretty over the top, said Grzelcyk. I met with the Bruins, but I didnt come in with high expectations. Its kind of a shock, but I couldnt be happier.
I wasnt ranked that high and Im kind of a smaller guy. So this was unexpected, but being a hometown kid this is exactly what you dream about. Its all come true. Ive always had this dream to play for the Bruins someday, and hopefully that comes true too.
Grzelcyk played in the prestigious US Team Development Program over the last two seasons, so he was away from Boston much of the time. But the 18-year-old will be heading back to Boston in the fall when he begins his college career at Boston University, and begins the latest in a long line of Bruins properties that develop their game as Terriers.
The easiest comparables in terms of size for Grzelcyk with the Bruins would be Matt Hunwick or David Warsofsky, but Bostons scouting staff believes that he holds a higher offensive ceiling. His skating is well above-average, his first pass out of the zone is unfailingly accurate and his considerable offensive abilities will be his meal ticket to the NHL if he can make it that far.
The game is built on speed and its something that I pride myself on. I move the puck up to the forwards and let them do the work. I play my best when Im aggressive and jumping up into the play on offense, said Grzelcyk. Theyve built that team on toughness, so maybe they need somebody that can break the puck out and get the puck to the forwards.
Grzelcyk meanwhile said hes always loved Bryan Rafalskis game when it comes to NHL players, but has idolized Nicklas Lidstrom from afar while growing a fan of the Black and Gold.
His favorite Bruins player? Patrice Bergeron.
So if Grzelcyk can harness the natural grit in growing up a Charlestown Townie and combine that with Bergerons leadership skills and high motor, Rafalskis ability to efficiently move the puck and Lidstroms longevity the Bruins could have themselves something pretty special.
I watched a lot of Bryan Rafalski growing up because I was a smaller guy, but my idol was always Nik Lidstrom. Its pretty easy guy to model yourself both on the ice and off the ice.
It will also be a victory for local hockey programs as Grizzy was a product of the Middlesex Islanders minor hockey program coached and organized by former Merrimack Hockey product and BluesBruins forward Jim Vesey. Veseys Islanders produced three players that were selected in the 2012 Draft in Grzelcyk, his own son, Jimmy by the Nashville Predators, and Malden Catholic forward Brendan Collier.
The fact that all three are well-steeped in the great Charlestown tradition of blue collar hockey just makes it all the better.
Ive known all these kids since I was young, so I was so happy to be able to experience this with them. Its kind of a surreal feeling to be here with them, said Grzelcyk. Im just happy that I was able to share it with them.
Id never been to a draft before. This was a cool experience seeing the passionate reaction from the fans. I wasnt sure if I was going to come because I didnt know where Id go. But I had a couple of teammates that were going high in the draft so I wanted to support them too.
As it turns Grizzy went much higher than even he expected after ranking 117th among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting list, but he had a couple of things working for him. The Bruins have never shied away from undersized defensemen that play with heart and courage, and the Black and Gold are still searching for that elusive puck-moving defenseman.
Grzelcyk will get that shot someday with the Bruins, and thats all a good, hockey-loving kid that grew up around the Bunker Hill monument could ask for.